NEW YORK (AP) - There was nothing desperate about this finale. ABC's "Desperate Housewives" concluded its rocky, racy and macabre eight-season run with a tidy, affectionate send-off.
For those who haven't yet made their farewell visit to Wisteria Place, be advised: Plot spoilers from Sunday's finale await.
Suffice it to say, everyone seems destined to live happily ever after. At least, with the exception of Karen McCluskey (Kathryn Joosten), the cranky but lovable senior who was battling cancer. But she dies peacefully at home, the way she wanted, with a favorite Johnny Mathis record serenading her.
By this point, she has saved the day for Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross), who was on trial for murder - an accidental homicide that was actually committed by Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira), the husband of Bree's fellow housewife, Gabrielle (Eva Longoria).
Bree was prepared to loyally take the fall for her friends, but, at the last moment, Karen steps in and confesses to the crime.
Besides her false confession, Karen voices on the stand a tender summary of life in the "Desperate Housewives" neighborhood: "It's not just a bunch of houses in the same place. It's a community - people who care about each other."
The charges are dropped against Bree, who overcomes her fear of commitment and settles down with her cute lawyer, Trip (Scott Bakula), after he assures her that her tarnished past doesn't bother him: "All those ugly details you're talking about, they just prove that you're human," he says lovingly.
Lynette (Felicity Huffman) and Tom (Doug Savant), whose marriage seemed on the rocks, reconcile passionately in the middle of Wisteria Lane in the romantic glow of streetlights.
Preparations are afoot for the gala marriage of Renee (Vanessa Williams) and Ben (Charles Mesure), with all the expected hysteria and confusion. For instance, en route to the ceremony in a stretch limo, Renee's expensive wedding gown is soaked by pregnant Julie seated beside her, whose water inconveniently breaks. But with Gabrielle as an accomplice, Renee steals a replacement gown from a bridal store.
Then Julie (Andrea Lauren Bowen), the daughter of Susan (Teri Hatcher), gives birth at the hospital as, in cross-cuts, the wedding reception takes place and Karen breathes her last. Life, nuptials, and death: a bittersweet confluence.
The ratings and heat that greeted "Desperate Housewives" eight years ago have faded during the series' run. The season finale for its first year drew more than 30 million viewers, while, this season, the series has averaged 8.5 million each week.
But Sunday's two-hour finale (whose second hour was written by series creator Marc Cherry) was a reminder of why "Desperate Housewives" struck such a chord with its arrival in fall 2004.
It burst on the scene as a lighthearted soufflÃ© of blackmail, lust, adultery and sisterhood; as TV's go-to address for sexy suburban angst. It hooked America from its first-place premiere airing when, among many twists, its series-long narrator (neighbor Mary Alice Young, portrayed by Brenda Strong) gave a play-by-play of her own suicide.
Then, as now, at the heart of this throbbing universe are the four titular housewives: overwrought career woman and weary mom Lynette; sexy, spoiled spitfire Gabrielle; goodhearted bubble-head Susan; and wired-too-tight homemaker Bree.
All of them have gone through so much, yet managed to stay rooted, as hordes of other characters came and went through the years. (Accelerating things, the time frame skipped forward by five years midway through the series' 8-season run.)
But that's all over. All four women (we are told) will soon scatter, living out their lives elsewhere, but happily.
The first to exit: Susan, the only member of the foursome who leaves without a partner by her side.
"Do I have one last torrid romance in me? Maybe," she tells daughter Julie wistfully. "But I know if I am ever old and lonely, I can wrap myself up in all those memories (of life on Wisteria Lane), and I will be content."
She has sold her home to a young married couple. But the wife, named Jennifer, confides misgivings at moving to the suburbs.
"I'm a little worried it's going to be boring," she tells Susan.
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," replies Susan with a knowing smile.
And, indeed, new housewife Jennifer seems to be bringing her own secrets and woes to the block - at least, if the series' final shot of her stricken expression and a mysterious box are any indication.
What a relief as the show comes to a close! Just because viewers won't be privy to future happenings on Wisteria Lane doesn't mean there's any danger of things settling down.